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The Woman In White: How I Began My Career As A Nurse

It’s National Nurses Week. J&J mom Gail writes about how a childhood encounter with a nurse formed the foundation of her own career in nursing.
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It was my first day of first grade. My grandmother was an expert seamstress and made a brand new green dress for me to wear on my special day. As I was ready to go to the bus stop, I remember very clearly my father calling out to my mother that Nana was sick and to call for help. I kept hearing the word “stroke” and being scared and confused all day. My father picked me up from school that day and drove me to the hospital. He told me that Nana is very sick, she can’t speak or move her right side, but she would be able to hear me.

At the hospital, I had to stay in the waiting area since I was only six years old. I have a vivid memory of meeting a woman, dressed in all white, who came to stay with me. She explained she was a nurse, and that nurses take care of sick people and help them get better. She explained to me what happened to my Nana and how I can help her get better and back to sewing pretty dresses. On that day, I began my journey of helping my grandmother recover – and I started my nursing career.

As my Nana navigated the health care system for the next 10 years, I was exposed to all levels of care; acute, rehab, and nursing home staffed with some fantastically skilled nurses who could get her to her physical best. However, it was a nurse psychiatric specialist who came to help with her emotional state who taught all of us the most. I quickly learned from her that healing is holistic, and that the mind must be healed and be allowed to recover after injury.

After witnessing this remarkable nurse at her finest, a career in nursing was never a second thought. Throughout my numerous years in nursing – from neurosurgery to neurology, outpatient psychiatric to crises stabilization, I have based my clinical practice in healing and recovery. That’s why my role at Janssen is so personal to me. I work with providers of mental health care, educating them on various treatment options that are available to those suffering from mental illness. I love being part of a dedicated team who gives hope for recovery to patients and their families. I share a passion for caring for mentally ill people and helping them navigate their journey of recovery.

I think of the thousands of nurses who came before me, who gave of themselves to help those suffering with life altering brain diseases. Like the nurse dressed in white all those years ago, I am privileged to touch the lives of families. I dream of a world with a cure for mental illness, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. What a wonderful world that would be… and to be a nurse helping in the solution for a cure!

Johnson & Johnson celebrates and supports the healing power of nurses. To learn more about our efforts to advance the nursing profession, visit

Gail Godek is an Executive Area Business Specialist, Janssen CNS, a division of Johnson & Johnson. Gail is an active member of the Nursing Innovation Council of Excellence (NICE) Employee Resource Group (ERG) at J&J. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, Steve and two boys, Michael (12) and Matthew (10). Though a devoted baseball and Boy Scout Mom, she cherishes her time to unwind and relax from her family’s busy schedule.

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